Wavetrain
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

I don't think its the NVM version. As I mentioned above I have 3 laptops with different NVM version but also different hardware iterations too, its 1575 vs 1577 game and we can only HOPE that they will ever do anything about it.. perhaps no amount of firmware can even fix it. Tbh I don't even care anymore, I just WANT TO KNOW if that is the case or not so I can move on with my life.

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jeverett_syl
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Hi all, thanks for joining the conversation.

First, a couple things I've discovered playing with things:

  1. Some of the thunderbolt software installation programs don't work (i.e. don't recognize that the controller exists to install software to) unless the TB3 host computer has a TB3 device connected to it.
    Of course, this is a catch-22 if you need the update to be able to recognize your peripheral. I got around this by connecting two Thunderbolt 3 computers together (to start the peer-to-peer 10GB networking); I think also connecting in a USB 3 device into the Thunderbolt 3 port, with the proper USB-C connector, might work as well.
    Also some the later firmware upgrades don't work without at least v16.x.x.x of the Thunderbolt Windows driver installed first. So, the pattern I'd recommend to upgrade firmware software is:
    1. plug in some basic device into the TB3 hardware
    2. try installing the v16.x.x.x Thunderbolt Windows driver, if you don't already have it.
    3. then try any firmware upgrade

    2. A useful tool I've found for helping diagnose the TB3 hardware presence is HWiNFO64. Here's what it shows when my Dell XPS 15 9550 is connected to another TB3 computer (an Asus with a DSL6340 TB3) chip:


    Here is the output when my 9550 is connected to a USB 3 device:


    As you can see, this tool is showing the Dell XPS 15 9550 TB3 hardware as a Intel DSL5110. (It also shows how Dell hung the TB3 port off a PCIe x2 port, rather than a full bandwidth PCIe x4 port, .) Not sure of the relevance of the different chips but perhaps with more info and testing it might shed light on what hardware works with what (if indeed the problem isn't just a software/firmware problem).

I have premium support with Dell and have also been trying to get satisfaction via that channel, but basically the answer I have gotten is:

What the engineers here are telling me is that it isn’t going to work with the Apple device and that we can’t fix it with a firmware update. I apologize but that is as deep as I can go with it. As Thunderbolt gains popularity it is possible that future models may use the updated chips and firmware, but I can’t even guarantee that. All of our current models will be subject to this same limitation....

....Apparently our engineers contacted Apple and they said they don’t support using the device on anything except Apple systems. Having it work on your IBM system is nice but couldn’t be counted on.

...The device is not compatible with our systems and regardless of the cause for the incompatibility no further action is planned at this time.

What I find astonishing about this reply is that it totally elides the notion that Thunderbolt 3 is a supposedly a STANDARD -- it's not "nice" if it works, it's people following standards and protocols. If Thunderbolt 3 doesn't work with Thunderbolt 3, that's not delivering a standard as advertised and there should be a formal technical explanation for the malfunction AND an appropriate remedy (either technical or financial).

It seems like Dell isn't coming forth with either the explanation nor the remedy. However, the hints of the hardware problem they are not reveal could perhaps be found in some of the statements I've gotten out of support while chasing this issue:

  1. ...it is possible that future models may use the updated chips and firmware.
  2. ...The compatibility issue with the Apple device is NOT NVM version related but related to the TI PD chip selection. BME was blocked by Apple because the TI PD chip we are using was NOT accepted by Apple for unknown reasons.
  3. ...As far as the USB-C port on all Dell systems, the port only supplies approximately 15W. Each adapter is going to consume some of that power. If the end device requires more than 10W it will most likely not work....

So, perhaps the issue is with (and/or also with) the PD (power delivery) chipset and/power delivery negotiation between hosts and devices using different PD chipset generations. Similarly, it looks like my Dell XPS 15 9550 (compared to my NUC6i7KYK) uses PD firmware 1.02.06 rather than 1.07.00 -- so maybe that lag in firmware could also indicate a lag in chipset versions, which makes the XPS 15 9550 Thunderbolt 3 inferior and incompatible with other Thunderbolt 3 implementations. Indeed other Thunderbolt 3 device manufactures, such as Pluggable and AKiTiO have addressed this problem (some issue between the 1st Gen TI USB-C chipset, TPS65982 and 2nd Gen TI USB-C chipset, TPS65983):

https://www.akitio.com/blog/articles/akitio-thunderbolt3-devices-macbook-pro

http://plugable.com/thunderbolt-3

It'd be nice if Dell would likewise come clean and explain what the problem really is, and what they are going to do about it.

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Wavetrain
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Correct, my XPS 9550 also has PD firmware 1.02.06 Thunderbolt (1575) where both of my HP ZBooks have PD firmware 1.07.03 Thunderbolt (1577). Not sure if that is something that firmware update can fix or not.. most likely not.

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Wavetrain
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Also, this thread is a good read on this subject if anyone is interested.

communities.intel.com/.../111547

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jeverett_syl
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Wavetrain,

So, your 9550 TB3 port doesn't work either:

1) with the StarTech TB3 to TB adapter connected to the Universal Audio Satellite TB device daisy-chained off the TB15

or

2) with the StarTech TB3 to TB adapter connected to the Universal Audio Satellite TB device directly plugged into the 9550 TB3 port (removing the TB15 from the equation)?

... and either of these configurations work fine with your HPs?

Do you have a standalone TB3 cable that you can try direct connecting between your 9550 and one of your HPs to see if you can at least get a 10GE networking connection out of your 9550 TB3 ports (and confirm at least basic functionality?)

I also have an Asus X99 motherboard with a TB3 adapter card (ThunderboltEX 3). It has Thunderbolt 3 (1577) hardware, with PD Firmware version 1.07.00. I thought I tested it with the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter and it didn't work (which is what made me suspect NVM 16), but I'll retest it to see if we can get more data on the compatibility failure to "1575 vs. 1577" /  "PD 1.02 vs PD 1.07" / "NVM 16 vs. NVM 18" patterns.

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Wavetrain
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Hey, this is all bunch of spaghetti.

Yes, every scenario works on ZBooks and no scenario works on XPS. However, its a good point there to try out networking the two with T3 cable. Unfortunately I don't have one, and didn't really had any intention getting one. Hm, if I come across one I will give it a shot, that's about the only thing I didn't try.

Also, these TB3 to TB adapters, when you think about it.. whats going on inside them? They must have their own firmware and controllers, and I would not be surprised if Apple threw something proprietary in there that doesn't work as "standard" with any device.

I initially bought Aikito adapter and it didn't work. Then I read on UAD website that they tested with StarTech and so I returned Aikito and got StarTech.. but it seems that adapter is not the problem Smiley Happy

If I don't get it up and running in next few weeks.. I will have to sell all the TB3 accessories and devices that I got and be much smarter next time.

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salanglo
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

OK, so Dell says that they won't support TB3 with an Apple device. What about their own devices? I have a TB16 that's suppose to work with the XPS 15 9550. However when I tried to call for support on the TB16 Dell wouldn't even talk to me because my XPS 15 was no longer under warranty! Has anybody got the TB16 to actually work with an XPS 15 9550 and if so how? Sorry - not trying to hijack your thread but just venting about Dell's lack of TB3 support on the XPS 15 9550.

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jeverett_syl
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

...good point there to try out networking the two with T3 cable. Unfortunately I don't have one, and didn't really had any intention getting one. Hm, if I come across one I will give it a shot, that's about the only thing I didn't try.

I bought one of the "Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 (20 Gbps) USB-C Cable in Black 6.6 Feet  / 2m" cables off Amazon for around $30 for the TB3 built-in 10GE networking function. It's a passive cable so at 6' it only goes 20 Gpbs, rather than 40 Gpbs, but the 6' is good for networking to my desktop system (on the floor), and since it's a passive cable it doubles as a USB 3.1 Gen 2 cable (which the active cables don't.) If you want the 40 Gbps capability, and don't need 6' length, you might try the "StarTech.com 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) USB C Cable" off NewEgg -- it's only around $20 and also doubles as  USB 3.1 Gen 2. (I've been able to use both of these cables with an M.2 SATA to USB 3.1 Gen 2 drive enclosure to get full SSD speeds, ~500Mbps data transfers, over the TB3 port on the 9550 -- it's about the only no hassle functionality I've gotten out of the TB3 port AND it's only USB.)

... I would not be surprised if Apple threw something proprietary in there that doesn't work as "standard" with any device.

However, the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter works perfectly with my Windows 10 Intel NUC6i7KYK with Thunderbolt 3 -- so it's not a Apple compatibility with the Windows world problem, it's just a Dell compatibility problem!

Also, these TB3 to TB adapters, when you think about it.. whats going on inside them? They must have their own firmware and controllers...

I initially bought Aikito adapter and it didn't work. Then I read on UAD website that they tested with StarTech and so I returned Aikito and got StarTech.. but it seems that adapter is not the problem Smiley Happy

My thought was that they would pass on one Display Port channel and the PCIe channel, at least x2 of it -- but it looks like none of the adapters pass the Display Port, just the PCIe/Thunderbolt part -- which means if your legacy TB2 chain terminated in your Display Port monitor, to get the same functionality, you'll need a TB3 device with a Display Port out which can then daisy-chain to the TB3-TB2 adapter (assuming the adapters actually work in a daisy-chain rather then only just connected to the computer TB3 port.) It really is amazing how little technical information there is about Thunderbolt 3 -- from anywhere, either Intel or OEMs -- to be able to engineer these connections without some disappointment.

I did get the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter working with the Intel NUC connected to an "AKiTiO Thunder2 Dock" working fine even thought that dock was designed for the Mac and not Windows certified. But, my original goal was to be able to bring home my work XPS 15 9550 and use the adapter to plug it into my home Mac's Thunderbolt chain, which already had Ethernet, sound, external drives, keyboard, mouse, etc.

I was about to give up on the Apple adapter and go for one of the others, but if those don't work either I am really going to regret my Dell purchase, as the XPS 15 9550's Thunderbolt 3 (supposed) functionality was the main reason I switched to the Dell instead of getting a newer Mac.

If I don't get it up and running in next few weeks.. I will have to sell all the TB3 accessories and devices that I got and be much smarter next time.

I'm definitely getting smarter about Dell given this experience. It's quite the thing to be on the Intel communities board and hear nothing but "your system manufacturer will help you" and come here, and to even premium support, where you instead find out, "nope, you're just SoL!"

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Wavetrain
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Ok, found TB3 cable this morning. No connection between XPS and either of the two ZBooks.. instant connection between two ZBooks. Lame. However, I never used Ethernet connection between 2 computers before, hence I don't know what is the benefit and what was I supposed to see/do. But yea, they popped up on ZBooks port 2 instantly. XPS on the other hand went full Stevie Wonder on connection.

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jeverett_syl
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RE: XPS 15 9550, Thunderbolt NVM firmware issue with Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter

Ok, found TB3 cable this morning. No connection between XPS and either of the two ZBooks.. instant connection between two ZBooks. Lame. However, I never used Ethernet connection between 2 computers before, hence I don't know what is the benefit and what was I supposed to see/do. But yea, they popped up on ZBooks port 2 instantly. XPS on the other hand went full Stevie Wonder on connection.

It's starting to sound like you have either a total failure somewhere in your Thunderbolt 3 software stack (laptop BIOS, Thunderbolt 3 controller firmware, and/or Windows Thunderbolt driver software), or your hardware is physically shot.
You might try re-running through all those software installs to make sure they installed right.
Alternatively, to check if your port is just non-functional, you might try a USB-C to USB-A adapter (like the "nonda USB-C to USB 3.0 Mini Adapter" off Amazon, only $10) and see if the XPS 15 9550 TB3 port at least works as a basic USB port, (before any Thunderbolt software support is required). If that doesn't work, your port could just be blown.
BTW, the benefit of the 10GE networking between the two computers could be if you have large files you need to transfer/synchronize between the two (and don't have 10GE otherwise.) Like, I often move virtual machines between desktop and laptop and the hope was to transfer then back and forth at 10GE, rather than only 1Gbps ethernet out my regular network. (Of course, in practice it turned out to only be about 110% faster than GigE, rather than 10 times faster.)
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